"The Darkness: Vicious Traditions" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Top Cow Productions
Written by Ales Kot
Illustrated by Dean Ormston
2014, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on March 5th, 2014
The Darkness, one of several powerful artifacts that exist within the Top Cow Universe, has been around for some time. Passed down from generation to generation within the Estacado family, it has served as a force of evil balanced out by the Angelus. Vicious Traditions, a new one-shot, shows the Darkness bearer during the times of the Roman Empire, and he definitely knows how to bring the blood and gore.
The issue opens with Estacado (he's not given a first name) waking up with a spear through his chest. It turns out that this isn't the first time he's been “killed” by the Roman Centurions in the area. He's part of a local tribe that's currently battling the soldiers and he keeps coming back. When he shows up this time, they figure that they've been killing his brothers and now it's his turn. They don't know the power he holds or the bloody trail he's going to leave behind in his wake.
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This is a nice little slice of a previous Darkness bearer's life, but it doesn't provide much else in terms of story. Estacado comes in and warns the Romans to back off and then things get bloody. There's no background on the character and no reason is given for the two factions to be at war. This is a one-shot, but I would have liked for a bit more in terms of plot. Instead you get a bunch of pages of violence and not much else to go on.
The dialogue is a bit odd. Did the Romans really say “fuck” that much? Probably not. The lines feel like they're written by a moody teenager. Even the internal monologue from Estacado is this way. Filled with curses and pauses to question himself. He gets distracted while waxing poetic and actually says “Forgot what I wanted to say.” It's an internal monologue! You're not talking to anyone! It's all in your head!
In other news, did you get a look at that cover? Dale Keown and Matt Milla did a helluva job. I love the subtlety to the distortion in the face. If it wasn't for the eyes, Estacado could pass for normal, but then you get a good look at his jaw and see how it's twisted up in a bloody snarl.
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The interior artwork was handled by Dean Ormston. He reminds me a bit of a slightly more detailed Mike Mignola. His characters are very serious looking and show no outward signs of happiness. Granted, they're at war, but there's no hope in their eyes. When Estacado first shows up at the Roman camp, there are several panels where he's cloaked in shadow with little more than his eyes shining through. These especially stand out as Mignola-esque and that's certainly not a bad thing.
The fight scenes are gruesome and gore-filled. There's a catapult filled with flaming severed heads. I can honestly say that that was never something I'd expect to see when I started reading this week's comics, but there it is. Estacado tears through the Centurions effortlessly. People are duking it out to either side and he slowly walks through the battlefield like he's having a leisurely stroll.
The Darkness: Vicious Traditions delivers on the blood and gore that can be expected from the other bearers of the artifact, but it's pretty light on the story. Even if this was expanded to a longer series, there's not enough presented here to make me interested about this particular version of the Darkness. I guess that's also a testament to the latest writers to take on the character, which was so friggin' good.